According to Alki Homestead owner Tom Lin, the trees on the property that were cut down had to be removed because they were either fallen, already dead or dying, in danger of damaging the building or leaning on nearby wires. CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE TO SEE MORE
UPDATE- SLIDESHOW: Why were the trees around Alki Homestead cut down?
Stop work order issued; City will investigate
UPDATE May 23
After getting complaints about the cutting of trees at the Alki Homestead, a "Stop Work" order was posted by the city on the property. The order directed the owner, Tom Lin, to leave all cut timbers in place, and to stop any further cutting.
It further directed him to contact the City.
He followed through on that request on Wednesday, May 23 and was told that the matter was being "sent to compliance" meaning it would be investigated.
Under Seattle Municipal Code regarding restrictions on tree removal it's only illegal to remove trees from undeveloped lots. A permit is only required to remove more than three trees per year on developed property.
The code states:
B. Limits on Tree Removal. In addition to the prohibitions in subsection
25.11.040.A, no more than three trees 6 inches or greater in diameter,
measured 4.5 feet above the ground, may be removed in any one year period on
lots in Lowrise, Midrise and Commercial zones or on lots 5,000 square feet
or greater in a Single-family or Residential Small Lot zone, except when the
tree removal is required for the construction of a new structure, retaining
wall, rockery or other similar improvement that is approved as part of an
issued building or grading permit as provided in Sections 25.11.060,
25.11.070, and 25.11.080.
Again, it's legal to remove three trees per year, without a permit on developed land.
Lin maintains that three of the trees were dead, and that two others were dead or dying and were a threat to the building. That means two trees were cut outside the restrictions in the municipal code. The investigation as to non compliance (cutting without a permit) will determine what, if any penalties will be levied and based on the code a determination will be made within 15 days.
The section on penalties shows that Lin might be fined as the code states "shall be subject to a civil penalty in the amount equal to the appraised value of the tree(s) affected in accordance with the Guide for Plant Appraisal, 9th Edition, or successor. If the violation is found to have been willful or malicious, the amount of the penalty may be trebled as punitive damages."
Lin said, "I tried to make it clear to the city that my intent was not to just cut down trees. I was told by an arborist that these trees were dead and could be a hazard."
The second issue concerns the large tree on the south side of the building which might be determined to be an "exceptional tree" meaning one that measures 24 inches in diameter at 5'4" off the ground. Under that section of the code the city states that a "tree evaluation" by a "tree care professional" might be required but this is in reference to sites under development. The Homestead is still in the process, set up by the city, for potential restoration.
Lin might also be ordered to replace one or more trees, under the code, but replacement is not required if the "tree was hazardous, dead, diseased, injured or in a declining condition with no reasonable assurance of regaining vigor as determined by a tree care professional."
What the city will do should be known soon.
Original post May 20
It came as something of a surprise to the neighbors of the apparently dormant Alki Homestead when crews showed up to begin cutting down trees on the property over the past few weeks. In all, four trees were cut and a fifth had already fallen. Building owner Tom Lin offered an explanation.
"I got a letter from Clay Eals (see below) but even before he sent it I had gotten phone calls from Tiffany's next door to the Homestead and from neighbors across the street that the trees had fallen. The two birch trees.
What had happened is that there were four trees that were all dead, one had fallen and one was leaning on some wires. I told my maintenance guy 'all the trees that are dead, cut them down so they don't fall on the building.' There was one tree that was leaning against the telephone pole that was not dead but had to be trimmed."
After getting the letter, Lin tried to find the right people for the job but that took several weeks he said to get on their schedule and to accomplish the task.
The Homestead has been closed since a fire in January 2008 ravaged the 108 year old building. It's been the focus of interest for neighbors, community members and especially historic preservation groups such as Historic Seattle and locally the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. It has been the subject of a preservation effort and was declared a landmark building in 1998. Various studies have been done and plans and restoration schemes have been developed but the project has been slow since it must first pass muster with the Architectural Review Committee of the Landmarks Preservation Board, which meets monthly.
An architectural company has created a series of plans but other matters relative to the potential restoration are currently under review and Lin said he was still in negotiation with several parties who preferred to remain quiet about the matter for now.
Clay Eals April 9 letter:
On behalf of our coalition of four local heritage organizations, I am checking in to see if you are aware of the fallen tree and power lines on the south side of the front lawn of the Alki Homestead. Apparently, the tree fell about a week ago. We are concerned about the safety of the situation. Please let us know of any action that is under way on this front. Thanks.
The next step for the building is to get the interested parties to attempt to speed up the process for going ahead. Lin indicated that would most likely happen in the next 30 days.
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